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Immigrants to Democrats: 'Wake up! Do something!' Lindsey Graham to Obama: 'Time to step it up'

March 10, 2010 | 10:01 am

Immigrants rally in front of INS on Jan. 26, 2010

In 2008, those who care about immigrants voted for change, hoping to end the plight of an estimated 10 million illegal immigrants who live in the shadows. For nearly 18 months, Democrats put them off, insisting that other issues -- healthcare, financial regulatory reform, climate change -- trumped theirs.

Now immigrants and their advocates are stepping up pressure, planning a march on Washington for March 21 and lobbying lawmakers to take action.

"People are suffering. Millions and millions of people cannot drive, cannot go to school, live in fear," said Dae Joong Yoon, the executive director of the Korean Resource Center in Los Angeles. "In 2008, many of our community members voted for change. ... We've been waiting, waiting, waiting. But since then, our president, our Congress members have been in a deep sleep. So now we're saying, 'We can't take it anymore! Wake up! Do something!'"

And they aren't the only ones.

For the last six months, New York Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer and South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham have been trying to craft a bipartisan package that would make the....

...left happy by providing a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants and appease the right by requiring a biometric national ID card for workers.

As he did in the early rounds of the healthcare debate, President Obama has kept his opinions to himself. He made brief mention of the issue in his State of the Union address -- "We should continue the work of fixing our broken immigration system" -- but that's about it.

With the two senators set to meet with the president Thursday, Graham is calling on Obama to step up to the plate. "At the end of the day, the president needs to step it up a little bit," Graham told Politico. "One line in the State of the Union is not going to do it."

You may recall that the last time immigration reform came to the forefront of national debate, it sparked a tidal wave of anger, what in retrospect seems like the first wave of tea party activists. Whipped up by conservative radio talk-show hosts, Americans railing against amnesty for illegal immigrants overwhelmed Congress, sinking the effort.

Will Democrats show more muscle this time? Will they stand up to tea party anger? Will the president whose father was an immigrant honor his campaign promises?

Watch this space. After the fury dies down over healthcare, immigration could be the 800-pound gorilla in the 2010 elections.

-- Johanna Neuman

Photo: Demonstrators take part in a rally in front of the Department of Homeland Security in January. Credit: Reuters

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